Le'Veon Bell, Andrew Luck headline injured stars primed to bounce back

A number of big-name players suffered significant injuries last year that forced them to miss at least half the season. With plenty of carnage to high-profile quarterbacks (Andrew Luck, Tony Romo), running backs (Le'Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles) and wide receivers (Jordy Nelson, Kelvin Benjamin, Steve Smith, Keenan Allen), fantasy fiends were well aware of this unfortunate attrition. But the injury bug hit the offensive line, too, with two-time All-Pros Maurkice Pouncey and Ryan Clady both missing the entire season. And the other side of the ball wasn't immune, as Robert Quinn, Joe Haden, Cameron Wake, Terrell Suggs and DeAndre Levy spent much of the season on the shelf.

Of the players who competed in eight games or less (due to injury) in 2015, which one will bounce back to enjoy the most productive season?

I like the way Le'Veon Bell runs the football. Despite the fact that he's recovering from a tricky injury for a runner, Bell is surrounded by a good team with a great quarterback and wide receivers -- that will open up the ground game.

Bottom line: Bell has some of the best skills out of any running back in the National Football League, and the players around him will only help build his production. Looking at Andrew Luck, he's the type of guy who can get you 5,000 yards in one season and turn the fortunes of a franchise around. We saw what happened to the Colts in 2015 when Luck was injured: They were left out of the postseason. With No. 12 back under center, Indianapolis is automatically a playoff team in 2016.

Even though there are a lot of big names on this list, I think what Andrew Luck brings to his team is the difference between missing the playoffs completely and competing for a championship. Le'Veon Bell should be back in prime form this coming season. First, the knee injury that forced him to undergo season-ending surgery involved an easier ligament to rehabilitate (the medial collateral instead of the anterior cruciate).

Secondly, Bell is a dominant force in the Steelers' attack, and offensive coordinator Todd Haley will be eager to put him back to work. Few backs in the NFL are as dangerous in both the running and passing games. With Bell back in the mix, look for the Steelers to maximize all of his myriad talents. Jordy Nelson is Aaron Rodgers' go-to guy. In 2015, the Packers couldn't throw consistently down the field because they didn't have a true WR1, which is why their production dipped on offense.

Nelson has had a long time to rehab and that leg will be strong. He's shown us how productive he can be in the past, and Rodgers will find ways to get him the ball. There are a lot of guys on that list who will bounce back -- we've seen Jamaal Charles do it once already (having a career year in 2012 after suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2011). But Steve Smith is the toughest guy in the business. He will be 37 years old when the season starts, so his decision to reverse the initial plans to retire and come back for one last season -- after a major injury -- says a lot about the kind of player he is.

With a healthy Ravens offense, Smith and Joe Flacco will connect for big numbers. My choice is Le'Veon Bell, who was averaging a robust 4.9 yards per carry when he got hurt last year. (He averaged 4.7 the year before.) With defenses forced to account for Pittsburgh's explosive passing game, Bell has a great opportunity for another big season.

My second choice in this exercise would be Jordy Nelson. The Packers wideout is also poised for another prolific season because of his relationship on the field with Aaron Rodgers. Having an Eddie Lacy who is in shape will greatly help Nelson's stats, too. Even with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell is the focal point of the Steelers' offense. Mike Tomlin believes in him -- Bell is going to get a lot of carries. Like we saw in Pittsburgh's game against the San Diego Chargers last season, Bell's going to get the ball when the game is on the line.

Bell suffered a tough knee injury, but I have talked to him and seen the way he works out. I know he'll be back and have a healthy, full season. Andrew Luck will be the most productive player returning from an injury for several reasons. The fifth-year pro falls into the best situation because the Colts are committed to upgrading the protection and skill around him. I think Luck understands that he needs to make strides in cutting down turnovers, and he has another offseason to master the nuances of the position.

The QB struggled early in 2015, before he was permanently put on the shelf, but I think we'll see an Andrew Luck who is ready to play at the elite level this fall.

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